A beautifully dazzling white light, burning deep into my eyes and warming me from head to toe. I start to drift into the ocean of illumination. I know, deep inside me, that there will be no turning back once I fall into the light. Yet the beauty of it is impossible to resist. Eternal peace and rest is waiting for me.
Then it all goes wrong. Something is pulling me back, digging its sharp claws of reality into me. The light begins to fade. No, I whisper weakly. I fight against the pull, but it's too late. I'm yanked away from death.
My eyes open.
I am lying on a small bed, wrapped in bandages and splattered with dried blood. Where is this? I think, looking around and taking in the other rows of beds around me. They are all abandoned, blankets and pillows askew, some even overturned. A hospital. I see nobody else.
Who am I?
I… I remember my name. It is… Jennifer? No. Julie. Strangely, I feel no panic, just a blank emptiness. I look down at my hands and frown. They look like a teenager's, maybe sixteen years old. A single white band is snapped around my right hand, displaying a number in black print: 16578. My thoughts are murky and I feel as if a fog is clouding my brain.
I try to sit up to get a better view. An agonizing pain shoots through me and I groan. I look down at the rest of my body – they look as if they've been in bandages for quite a long time. The pain is coming from the stiffness of my limbs; I look almost like a mummy, incased in a coffin of hardened bloody wraps. If I want to be able to move, I'll have to do it slowly.
I cautiously move my arm a millimeter. Then another. And another. I do this for next few hours, eventually losing track of time as the soreness disappears. Soon, I'm mobile, although it still does hurt incredibly. A tiny bit of sense returning to me, I gently pick at my bandages and find they peel off easily.
I steadily move my legs to the side of the bed and attempt to stand. I quaver and then fall, another excruciating wave of pain rippling through me. It soon passes and finally I manage to get up and walk, grimacing with every step. At least I have no other visible injuries.
What's wrong with me? I try hard to remember what got me into this place. I can vaguely recall the sharp blast of a gun, the siren of an ambulance, and a soothing voice of a doctor. That's it. I don't even know my last name or my birthday. The fog is only just lifting from me and now fear begins to return; I place a freshly unwrapped hand on my heart and feel the fast-paced beat.
I examine the room more closely for clues of… well, anything. I must have been injured, and then been brought here – but where did everybody go? There are bloodstains on the walls, and the ceiling looks damp with mold. It looks as if a wild animal tore in and slaughtered the patients.
Then I notice a small clipboard, smudged but readable, attached on the end of my bed. It says:
PATIENT NAME: JULIE LANNISTON.
CONDITION: UNREACTIVE BUT STABLE. IN COMA.
INJURIES: BULLET WOUND TO RIGHT SIDE OF THE HEAD (HAS MADE FULL RECOVERY).
DATE OF LAST CHECK-UP: JANUARY. 23, 2017
DOCTOR'S SIGNATURE: Eliza Brookwell
Although it has few words, the clipboard provides an enormous amount of information to me. My last name is Lanniston, although that doesn't ring a bell. The date right now is probably almost the end of 2017, judging from the hospital's neglected state. Somebody shot me in my temple – although I hadn't initially noticed, I can now feel a small bandaged patch above my right ear. It doesn't hurt, as the clipboard says I had made a full recovery. It makes sense: I remember a loud blast of a bullet in the few memories I have left, but I have no idea why anyone would try to kill me. Also, the fact I was in coma explains why I felt so stiff and confused when I woke up. I must've been asleep for the whole year.
What has happened during that year?
I unclip the paper from the clipboard and try to find a pocket to put it into. I'm wearing a dirty hospital nightgown, and I notice a minuscule pocket on my chest. After stuffing the paper into it, I walk into the next room through a door that has nearly been torn off its hinges.